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NaNoWriMo sets would-be authors on a quest to write a 50,000-word book in 30 days. That’s an average of 1,667 words a day. Not a bad clip, right? Of course, that’s the first draft. The ensuing rewriting and editing phases can amount to considerably more time spent on your project. So how long does it actually take to complete a ready-for-publication book?

This infographic might help put things in perspective, considering that famous works of literature, of varying lengths and esteem, took anywhere from three days to 16 years to complete. And book length does not always correlate to time spent writing.

“How Long Did it Take to Write the World’s Most Popular Books?,” published by, shows that, at 16,470 words in length, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took a mere six days to write – Robert Louis Stevenson had to write 2,745 words per day on average to finish the book within this timeframe – while J. D. Salinger averaged 20 words a day to finish his 73,000-word classic The Catcher in the Rye over a 10-year span.

As you whiz through your novel in a matter of days, wondering if it could possibly be this easy, or struggle, week by agonizing week, wondering if it’s worth the fight, this infographic may help you recognize that every book has its journey, and every journey has its path. Yours may take a month, a year, a decade … who knows? Don’t give up, your Song of Ice and Fire will emerge as long as you keep writing.

how long did it take to write your favorite book?

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Andre Calilhanna

About Andre Calilhanna

Andre Calilhanna has written 29 posts in this blog.

Andre Calilhanna is the editor and manager of the BookBaby blog. He's a musician, songwriter, writer, marketer, massage therapist, husband, dad, and soon to be author.

20 thoughts on “How Long Did It Take To Write Your Favorite Book?

  1. w.k. dwyer says:

    not sure whether to feel embarrassed or vindicated for taking 9 years for my first novel. i’ll get back to ya in a few years 🙂

    1. John Allan says:

      I’m on 8 and counting. So …

    2. Dd says:

      Awesome- right there with you but I do have to work in real time

    3. Thom Gordon says:

      Just Checked. Novel number one is on its 14th year. Distractions of life are a problem. Oh, look. A squirrel.

  2. Very interesting! Thanks for the infographic.

    I believe there’s an accidental error with the word count mentioned for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You’ve stated it’s over 58,000 words, but a few sources I checked show the word count to be just under 27,000 words, which matches the math you’ve listed at 4,482 words per day. Regardless, 27k in 6 days is still impressive!

    1. John Allan says:

      Or a little under 10,000 words a day. Except the novel is not 58,000 words, but less than half that, precise count undetermined. But, yes, still impressive.

  3. Anonymole says:

    X weeks to write, Y months to edit, Z years to publish. I wonder if any of that is in this data.

  4. Now I’ve written only four books in my life, all non-fiction, but it’s my strong sense that if you deconstruct the writing effort, eliminating all the procrastination and BS, there’s rarely more than six months of ACTUAL WRITING ever involved. Sometimes it takes less time: my first book took 93 days to write, for example, because I stupidly agreed to deliver the 96,000 word manuscript in 90 days.

  5. Carol says:

    OMG this makes me feel so much better! Sometimes I feel so hopeless that I will never finish this thing. Thank you.

    1. Kitty says:

      Doesn’t it just!!!

  6. Johannes Blom says:

    My memoir, the Little Flying Dutchman, took almost 1.5 years. This included the editing and publishing. Pretty soon, I will start again for it was a good ‘memory’.

  7. Herb Nordmeyer says:

    I can write a book of stories with life lessons attached in 5 to 6 days, but it takes my wife about 2 years to correct all of the miss spellings and poor grammar.

    When a granddaughter has note cards and asks me questions while I talk to Dragon Naturally Speaking, it goes even faster and my wife has a bigger job.

    When writing a technical book concerning building disaster-resistant housing, it takes several years because I have to run tests to prove concepts. My wife can usually keep up with me when I am working on a technical book.

  8. I’d like to see the stats for from finished novel to fully edited. I write fast, but then procrastinate when it comes to the editing party.

  9. The most frightening statistic is that, I think, all of those books were written long hand, without the advantage of using a computer to edit. However, the fact that we can edit so easily could slow the finish down while perfectionism tends to creep in (at least, that’s my excuse!)

  10. joe sixpak says:

    wonder how many were pantsers vs planners

  11. Love this! Great perspective!

    So, I wrote the (very:) rough draft of Buttkickers, my second book, in one day: 11-11-11. I had decided that was how I wanted to spend that day… it was a fun way to get the sh*t draft DONE. The draft of my first book had taken most of a year to write.

    Both books are now sorely in need of editing; they’re dated now, and fortunately my writing has improved a bit. Also, my surname has changed, so that’s another reason to do new editions!

    The thing I most want to say to all of my fellow perfectionists is that although I’ve stressed over words and even chapters I’ve wished I had done differently (or not at all), it felt SO GOOD to just get them OUT there. People have been helped by reading them, and that’s why I wrote them – not to demonstrate my writing chops. So, I know there’s a lot of wisdom about doing it right the first time… I get it – but seriously, I might still be on the draft if I’d thought that way. Grateful I got them out, and got out of my own way!

    Today I’m an imperfectionist, and proud.
    Just one perspective in a sea of perspectives on this.. oh, and thanks for the infographic, too.

  12. Marty says:

    My favorite book? Well, three plus years (112,333 wrds) for my debut, and last ever, book. Not yet released, but will be within next couple of months.

  13. I am going to sound odd here as my favourite novel took only three weeks to write. Others have taken years, one three and a half years but my favourite took only three weeks. It is short, as you can imagine but I must have been “In the Zone” as I still cannot fault it. Fifteen years later.

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